When many people think about engineers and advanced degrees, they probably think about Masters and Doctorates, but these aren't the only advanced degrees that engineers can get. When thinking about continuing your education, think about what it is you want to do in the long run.
Where do you want to be?
- Do you want to be working in R & D?
- In a non-R&D company?
- In a patent office?
A Masters in Business Administration (MBA) or a Juris Doctor (JD) can be great options for engineers.
A wide variety of colleges have part-time MBA programs geared toward working adults. Evening classes can be held in the classroom, online or a mixture of both. Pursuing a full-time MBA could be a great segway into a whole new industry and job and give you a better picture of what motivates businesses. Likewise, law degrees can also be obtained on a part-time basis or full-time basis. Pursuing a law degree doesn't mean you have to work in a big law firm in a bustling metropolis--many companies have their own lawyers and legal department to file for intellectual property, prepare patent applications, and file suits against competitors for patent infringement.
So you think you want to pursue either an MBA or a JD - what do you do next?
First--can you afford it?
Some companies will pay your part or all of your tuition in continuing education classes if you choose to go part-time. Check with your HR or Continuing Education departments for information on their programs. If you choose to go Full-Time, find out if you qualify for financial aid, grants or scholarships. Make sure that you and your family have enough saved up to support this pursuit.
Second--do you have the time to dedicate to the program?
MBA and JD classes are very different from engineering classes. There will be more reading and less math. Other students may have taken similar classes in their undergrad education while you were taking Chemical Thermo - there will be a learning curve, prepare for it. If you pursue a part-time degree, you will work 8 or 9 hours, attend class for 3 to 4 hours and then go home to your daily household duties - you may not be able to maintain the same social schedule you enjoy now and you may have to shuffle things around. Part-Time degrees will take considerably longer than Full-Time degrees - take into consideration your 5 year life plan.
Third--sign up for and prepare for the tests you need to take to apply.
Most schools require the GMAT for an MBA (Not all schools require it. Look at the schools you are interested in before spending the money on the exam and the prep book or class) and the LSAT for the JD. Regardless if which exam you take, either get a book or enroll in a class. Having a refresher and learning how to think the way the exam thinks will help on exam day.
Fourth--Apply to the schools that make sense.
Are you planning to stay in the area? Apply to a school nearby if you can--excessive commuting will get old. Or apply to a school with a distance learning program. If you aren't planning to stay in the area, look for schools with the program you want. Some have Supply Chain concentrations, Project Management, Supply PhDs, Taxation Law, Securities Law etc. Some programs have Joint Degree programs that can combine your interests. If you can, attend information sessions at the school--it will be a great opportunity to ask questions and talk to current students.
After you receive your acceptance letter(s) and make your choice, prepare for a few years of rewarding hard work! Network with people in your classes and learn from their professional experiences. Often it's the other students and their experiences that can really make a class and illustrate the concepts that the professor is teaching.